Summary: Prayer: it works.

“Go, your faith has saved you”

Given at St John the Evangelist, Rishworth and Christ Church, Barkisland, West Yorkshire, England, 29th October 2000

In the name of the living God, +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Once upon a time (and doesn’t it fill you with dread when a sermon begins with ‘once upon a time’) but still, Once upon a time, Bartimeaus, the blind beggar who features in this morning’s story, could see. He was full of life, and I suppose we can assume, full of hope.

Then something happened to him, and he lost his sight: disease, accident, we don’t know; but bereft of sight his options in life collapsed and he ended up begging by the roadside.

These days, blindness is not nearly so catastrophic, and those with diminished sight certainly do lead full, enriched, happy and productive lives; but then, it was very different: no sight, no work, no work, no food – a very direct relationship. So Bartimeaus sat by the roadside hoping that someone would pity him and would fill his bowl with food, or give him a few coins to purchase what everyone needs.

As anyone on the streets of Leeds, Manchester or London will tell you, Bartimeaus had a hard life. There was little sympathy for those who were blinded. Some thought that it was the fault of the blind person: that they had been struck blind because of some sin or wickedness; others simply felt you were a drain on society, a social parasite – best ignored, best left begging by the roadside.

Because Bartimeaus was blind, he was in many people’s eyes, less than human. He had become an object: an object to be pitied, or cursed, or ignored. Bartimeaus was therefore stuck at the side of the road outside Jericho, with the world passing him by.

How many of us, I wonder feel as Bartimeaus must have felt? How many of us feel that the world is passing us by? Prevented by one reason or another from fully participating in the life that goes on around us.

I am sure that many of us feel trapped in the life we have, in our jobs, in our relationships, trapped in the body we have; unable to break free, unable to change things…

And how many of us, finding ourselves in that position, do anything about it? How many of us reach out for help?

How many of us find out our friends and our neighbours and confide in them our feelings, our needs? How many of us actually ask our families for help when we need it? How many of us even think to reach out to God and ask that he help?

Sometimes we suffer, not because the situation cannot be overcome, but because we are afraid to ask for help, we don’t want to be a burden on others, or perhaps we do not want to seem weak in the eyes of other people.

You will be able to think of your own examples, but:

I know of someone who will not tell his wife how troubled he is, because he thinks she will not be interested in his plight, as she has so many troubles of her own to bear.

I know of several people who will not seek help for their addiction to alcohol, or drugs, because they cannot admit to themselves that their problems have become bigger than they are.

I know of young people who have a hard time coping with life because they will not approach their parents or their teachers because they are afraid that they will get into trouble or even worse, be ignored if they do.

I can think very readily of someone who will not pray for God to come to her help because she thinks he has more important things to do than listen to her.

However, if we have the courage and most importantly the faith to reach out to God and ask Him to help us, he shows us that he does have the time to deal with us, and to comfort us in our times of need.

This is a hard thing to do, for it takes courage, it takes faith and it takes, much as Bartimeaus has shown us, perseverance: the path through to God and through to His salvation is beset by those wanting to detract us, those trying to quieten us down and keep us in our place: keep us begging by the roadside.

We have to realise that there are times when we all need help, times when we must turn to other people and turn to God. The Good News, is that there is no situation in life which is so bad that someone cannot help us with it in some small way, that someone cannot help us to overcome it, or to help us bear it.

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